Woman jailed after homophobic attack on girl

April James
April James

A WOMAN who was part of a five-strong group that subjected a teenage girl to a torrent of homophobic abuse before attacking her on a train has been jailed.

April James, 20, was sent to prison for six weeks on Monday following a hearing at Hastings Magistrates Court.

The attack happened on October 15 last year on the Hastings to Bexhill train after the victim, from Bexhill, had attended the Hastings bonfire procession with her then girlfriend.

After exchanging a kiss with her partner the victim was subjected to a torrent of homophobic abuse by a group of five girls, including James.

The victim objected to the group’s comments but was attacked and fell over, with James, of Carfax Close, Bexhill, kicking her to the head or shoulder while she lay on the floor.

The attack stopped when the train arrived at Bexhill, with the victim, James and the other girls leaving the train.

James was identified through social networking site Facebook as one of the attackers and was subsequently arrested and charged by police.

She later pleaded pleading guilty to assault by beating at an earlier court hearing before being sentenced on Monday.

Speaking after sentencing, through a statement issued by British Transport Police (BTP), the victim’s mother said: “I’m immensely proud of my daughter and the choice she has made but this incident left her feeling ashamed and has had an immeasurable impact on her and the rest of our family.

“In this day and age everyone should have the right to go about their business and be who they want to be without fear of abuse or repercussions.

“The last seven months since the incident took place have been very long and difficult. We’re relieved that this has now been dealt with by the courts because it will allow us to try and move on together as a family and put this behind us.”

PC Billy Burstow, the investigating officer, said: “After experiencing homophobic abuse from James and the rest of the group, the girl was violently attacked and stood no chance of defending herself against five others.

“I hope the prison sentence handed down to James shows that violence and discriminatory, homophobic abuse will simply not be tolerated by the police and the courts.”

Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, said: “People in Hastings and Bexhill will no doubt feel safer knowing that James is now behind bars. Stonewall has campaigned hard to make sure anti-gay crime is treated seriously by the police and courts. We remain mindful that she was educated in secondary schools in this country in the last five years. If Britain’s schools continue to fail to tackle homophobic bullying then there’s a risk we’ll continue to see this sort of incident.”